tv The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson CSPAN April 2, 2017 4:00pm-4:27pm EDT
you're watching american history tv, awakened every weekend. to join the conversation like us on facebook at c-span history. announcer: next on reel america from 1961, the ordeal of woodrow wilson. this encyclopedia britannica film is hosted by former president herbert hoover and is based on his book by the same title. herbert hoover served as overseeing distribution of food to the allies start world war i. 25-minute film, president hoover details woodrow wilson's efforts to the versailles piece treating and his failed attempt to approve membership in the new league of nations. april marks the centennial of the u.s. declaration of war on germany in 1917.
pres. hoover: this is the story of the valor of one american president as told by another american resident. the ordeal of woodrow wilson. ♪ a personal memoir by herbert hoover. woodrow wilson fought another great war. the war against hunger, pestilence, famine, and disease. his commander was herbert hoover whose counsel was also high in the conduct of the war itself. people idolized woodrow wilson. he was the hope of the world-war-weary masses.
and when he left for washington, he found a hostile element in the u.s. senate who bitterly opposed his idea for a league of nations. he set out across the country in a valorous attempt to rally the american people to get behind his vision, to eradicate the earth from war forever. what happened to his ideal? what happened to the man himself? the tragic story of the 20th president of the united states, a democrat, is told now in a unique historical tribute by the 31st president of the united states. a republican. by herbert hoover. he speaks out of personal experience almost a half a century after the event because he believes the ideals of america's great should be kept fresh in american memory. >> i served for three years directly under woodrow wilson in
washington, d.c., and at the peace conference in paris. i came to know his philosophy of life, his humane spirit, and his idealism. i saw him rise to the highest intellectual leadership of mankind and all history. i was a witness to the ordeals which beset him and the tragedy which finally envelope 10 and the whole world. like all human beings, he made mistakes. but smaller minds exaggerate their weight in the skills of history. from my discussions, early in 1917, i knew the ordeal which came to him in recommending to the congress its most solemn
decision since the civil war. that is the declaration of war on germany. in that great address of april 2, 1917, the president said "the present german submarine warfare is warfare against mankind." we are now about to engage in battle. the world must be made safe for democracy and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest to our hearts. for the rights and liberties of small nations. for universal dominion of right by such a concert as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself free. america, with god helping her, can do no other."
>> he had the enormous task of immobilizing 4 million men who enlisted or responded to the draft. they went to reception centers, got their civilian identities, became trainees, and were turned into fighters. >> they had come from an ivory tower academic life. the presidents run himself with the best of american life. from the beginning woodrow wilson looked at winning the war. world consumed that the but have a lasting impact.
january 1918 9 months after the declaration of war, the president, in an eloquent address to the congress, lay down his 14 points which must dominate the making of these. in subsequent addresses, he added further principles and actions until they amounted to 35 points in all. therein, woodrow wilson proposed a new order and a new era in world affairs. >> but the war continued in all of its fury. new weapons joined the arsenal of warfare. bigger guns. for the first time, warplanes. and, poison gas killed and maimed. artillery, effective since napoleon's day, was replaced by another kind of calvary weapon.
the tank. but woodrow wilson's weapons were ideas and ideals. to the great masses of the people of the world who were bloody and battered and sickened by war, woodrow wilson brought a new hope. >> as he reached out across the world, ideas barraged, slip through the enemy lines, under enemy doors. his words drew wedges between the german people and their autocratic leader. they lifted the hopes of people among mankind. exhausted, starving, defeated in battle, october 1918, they began to ask for an armistice. the signing of the armistice 1918 was in november
the mark of abject surrender. fighting men climbed out of the trenches and fraternize to within the barbed wire of no man's land. ♪ a still greater achievement was the settlements, he secured the bases of peace should be his point. never before in history had there been such a triumph of moral leadership. a few days after the armistice, president wilson let it be known that he proposed to go to paris as the head of the american peace delegation. many of his associates,
including myself, advised him not to go. we argued that he would be involved in secret committee meetings where his, the most powerful voice in the world, would be still. we believe that on the white house it could be thunder and lightning to the whole world. but that in paris, he would be trapped in intrigue. our armed services fought for the ideals of our country. it is now my duty to play my full part in making good what they neglected to obtain. narrator: however, from his knowledge of centuries of trying to prevent war and have peace, it was inevitable that woodrow wilson would leave for europe.
he boarded the steamship george washington accompanied by his wife, his physician admiral grayson, and a number of aides. ♪ president wilson arrived in 1918. >> he was received by masses of people everywhere with an almost religious fervor. to them, no man of such moral power, no such an evangelist of peace, had appeared since christ preached the sermon on the mount. everywhere men believed a new era had come to mankind. the star of bethlehem was rising again. at this moment, woodrow wilson
had reached a zenith of intellectual and spiritual leadership never before achieved by any world statesman. ♪ but while mr. wilson was the -- familiar with the historical, political, and economic part which controlled the old world, he had little understanding of the deep emotions which had been stirred by the war. among the allies, during this past four years almost every home had sacrificed a son, a father, or a loved one. they had been ruthlessly attacked and had suffered hideous destruction and brutal hardship and they were now confronted with enormous debts, huge obligations to widows, orphans, and disabled veterans. they were impoverished.
expressing these emotions of hardship, the prime minister had just won the british election on a platform of "hang the kaiser." a vote of confidence from the french assembly by an address promising to demand reparations and the reduction of germany to a nation of impotence. the prime minister of italy, a nation wracked with hardships and riddled with emotions, demanded war reparations and territorial spoils.
on january 18, 1919, the greatest peace conference since the congress of vienna 100 years before was opened by an eloquent address by president wilson. 16 new nations had established their independence. fixed in the blood of many of their delegates at the peace table were 1000 years of distrust and hate. and the representatives of all of the european nations could not survive at home if they brought back nothing more than a political treaty. all their peoples were demanding nothing less than reparations, spoils, punishment for the enemy. even though they had agreed to mr. wilson's 14 points, these delegates were determined not to let idealism stand in their way. not when it conflicted with their own purposes and desires.
such were the destructive forces at the table at versailles. and their power was great. that woodrow wilson knew. but woodrow wilson was presented with problems besides making the peace. raising the curtain on the raging famine of hundreds of millions of people. there was more than famine to contend with. a great typhus epidemic was raging in eastern europe. millions had already died and millions more would die unless there was quick action to control it. the blockade was continued against germany for 4.5 months
after the armistice despite the implied promise to supply food. while beset with problems, woodrow wilson still supported the greatest battle against famine and pestilence in the history of the world. a letter from my organization to the president asking for millions of money brought an immediate reply on the margin. approved, w.w. in late february 1919, the president had mean to return for the opening of congress on march 4. he came home to meet his first rebuff.
37 members of the new senate led by senator lott had signed a protest resolution that the constitution of the league of nations in the form proposed to the peace conference should not be accepted. the president reacted with a shocked defiance and talked to the press and the people. with american and world opinion on his side, he felt confident of the final outcome. upon president wilson's return to paris, with the three prime ministers, he took over the final stages of the making of the treaty in secret sessions. within these big for meetings, the president was confronted with adamant opposition to many
of his basic proposals of peace. but the world's call for the league let him back into the big four sessions. only by making the treaty with germany could he secure the the signatories of the 27 people at the table as well as the enemy signatories. the president decided to make the compromises demanded by the allies. they gained the dismemberment of the enemy empire and the annexation of great territory. they won their demands for impossible reparation. on may 7, 1919, a draft of the treaty was given to the waiting german delegation in paris.
they were allowed two weeks to propose modifications. when the proposals were received, the president made a valiant effort to modify it. at the time ministers were adamant. the delegation refused to sign. returned to germany. under the threat of renewed blockade on their food supply or invasion by the allied armies, the germans sent the small delegation back to paris to sign. on june 28, 1919, these new german representatives and all the 27 allied delegations convened in the hall of mirrors at versailles to witness the signing of the treaty. many of our american colleagues
witnessed the glittering ceremonies with sinking hearts for the future of the world. all of the allied statesman left paris. the doors close, the alienating president came home. , a senator from idaho said it took george washington seven years to gain independence from george the third and now my friends, they want to give it back to george the fifth. and senator hiram johnson added, he is asking us to hand of american destiny over to the secret counsels of europe. it is the duty of senators of this nation to keep america american. a few democratic senators said it was the end of american independence.
the league was in mortal danger. woodrow wilson did not wait. against dispositions warning, september 4, 1919, he started west on a long, exhausting trip to carry his fight for ratification to the american people. ♪ many senators demanded reservations to the treaty. others were violently opposed to ratification in any form. it was not the fault of the case that troubled them so much, but the commitment to the league. some argued it created a superstate and argued under the covenant the league might force
our nation into a war without the consent of congress. in 22 days, wilson made 40 addresses in 17 cities. he was against any change in the covenant of the league. the text was already signed by many nations. he insisted we had no right to change it now. ♪ on the 21st day of his crusade in colorado, he collapsed. the long strain had been too much. the president was rushed back to washington. he lay prostrate for months. these were the vital months when the crucial titles over the league and the treaty were being waged in the senate.
twice the senate voted on the treaty. twice it was defeated. >> in 1921, mr. wilson, with his illness all too evident, left the white house on his weight to his new home. there, as in invalid he frequently stepped out of doors to acknowledge the affection of admirers. he lived quietly on s street for four more years. the public's last view of it was at an upstairs window. >> woodrow wilson lived to see some of his defeats become victories. he saw his ferment of freedom bring independence too many nations. above all, he lived to see the league of nations come into being at the hands of the old world. he saw a settlement of dangerous controversies and the making of
many treaties which aided the economic health of the world. he lived to see the international labor organization had mr. wilson lived just two decades longer he would of seen the dragon's teeth sowed in versailles bring another equally terrible war. out of this world war, he would of seen the rise of the league concept again under the name of the united nations. this new organization to preserve peace clearly follows the pattern of woodrow wilson league except for one particular
negotiation, he would never have agreed to accept dictators as membership. when mr. wilson died, his epitaph may well have been the delivered by pericles over the greeks who had given their lives. so they gave their bodies to the commonwealth and received, each for his own memory, prays that will never die and with it the greatest of all sepulchers not one in which their mortal bones are laid, but a home in the minds of men where they remain fresh to stir to speech our action as the location comes by it. for the whole earth is a sepulcher of famous men and their story is not graven only on stone over there remains, but
>> you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend, on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at c-span history. each week, american artifacts takes you to museums and historic places. we visited woodrow wilson's house in washington dc, where the 28th president retired in 1921, after leading the nation through world war i and its diplomatic aftermath. he died here three years later. the executive director guides us through. and how its objects that provide a window to world war i. the united states entered the war on april 6, 1917, as an ally of britain, france, and russia. 2 million american soldiers saw combat in france. mr. enholm: i am robert enholm,